|Botanical Name:||Pennisetum Glaucum|
Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was used during those times to make bread. Millet has been used in Africa and India as a staple food for thousands of years and it was grown as early as 2700 BC in China where it was the prevalent grain before rice became the dominant staple. It is documented that the plant was also grown by the lake dwellers of Switzerland during the Stone Age. Millet is superior feed for poultry, swine, fish, and livestock and, as it is being proven, for humans as well.
Millet also known as Bajra or Green Millet or Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum); today is an enormously important staple cereal for both sub-Saharan Africa and parts of India; and an important forage crop in the Americas. Bajra is one of the most widely grown varieties of millet. It is grown in bulk in Africa and India. Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are the largest Bajra producing states in India.
There are many varieties of millet, but the four major types are Pearl, which comprises 40% of the world production, Foxtail, Proso, and Finger Millet. Pearl Millet produces the largest seeds and is the variety most commonly used for human consumption.
The seeds are enclosed in colored hulls, with color depending on variety, and the seed heads themselves are held above the grassy plant on a spike like panicle 6 to 14 inches long and are extremely attractive. Because of a remarkably hard, indigestible hull, this grain must be hulled before it can be used for human consumption. Hulling does not affect the nutrient value, as the germ stays intact through this process.
It is comparatively high in proteins and has a good balance of amino acids. Thus, it plays an important role in metabolism.
• Due to essential nutrients such as methionine (an amino acid), B complex vitamins (niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin), folic acid, lecithin, potassium, magnesium, manganese and zinc, millets are very effective in several roles. Niacin reduces cholesterol while magnesium is essential for maintaining good heart health, as it lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attacks.
• It is a better source of iron than other grains. This ensures a good count of hemoglobin, avoiding symptoms of anemia etc.
• Regular intake of millets provides protection against breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.
• It is a moderate source of thiamine (vitamin B1), which helps improve blood circulation and general health of the nervous system.
• It is a good source of magnesium, millets act as a cofactor in a number of enzymatic reactions. Consumption of pearl millets helps in minimizing the risk of type 2 diabetes.